Ranked: ‘The Matrix’ Films from Worst to Best

Daniel Rester ranks the live action movies in 'The Matrix' series, including the recent 'The Matrix Resurrections.'

Ranked: ‘The Matrix’ Films from Worst to Best

By Daniel Rester

Lana and Lilly Wachowski changed the science fiction and action landscapes in filmmaking when they delivered their film The Matrix to audiences in 1999. The film gave a boost to Keanu Reeves’ leading man status as well. The Matrix has seen many copycats influenced by its style over the years. Its success has also led to a franchise, with four live action films in total so far. Here’s how I stack the four films against each other. 

4. The Matrix Revolutions  (2003) 

The finale to the original trilogy is seen by many as disappointing. While it certainly is disappointing, The Matrix Revolutions also isn’t the abomination some people make it out to be. The third film starts out decently, with Seraph (Collin Chou) getting more to do, though the Trainman stuff feels mostly pointless overall. The Zion battle scenes and Hammer chase scenes are impressive and exciting. The film too often focuses on bland supporting characters instead of Neo (Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) though, while Smith (Hugo Weaving) is turned into a cartoon villain. The conclusion arrives with some illogical story turns as well that try to show peace between the humans and the machines. The Matrix Revolutions has its entertaining moments, but it is far from the heights of where the original trilogy started. Grade: B-

3. The Matrix Resurrections  (2021)

After eighteen years, the series returned with The Matrix Resurrections, a mostly needless but pretty enjoyable reboot. The Neo and Trinity relationship gives some heart to the film while Lana Wachowski (solo directing this time) injects the material with some new characters and humorous touches as she brings this world back to audiences. The nostalgia and meta moments can be heavy-handed and the film takes forever to set up a standard rescue mission plot, but the action is riveting (Neo using his powers during a motorcycle chase is amazing) and the new characters and cast members are fun. Neil Patrick Harris, however, feels completely out of place. The film never fully justifies its existence, but it is a fine enough revisit to this world nonetheless. Grade: B

2. The Matrix Reloaded  (2003)

The second film, The Matrix Reloaded, arrived in theaters with huge boots to fill after the original film became so influential and loved. Alas, it didn’t even come close to the quality of its predecessor. It is, however, a solid feature and even occasionally shows flashes of the first film’s brilliance. The first half is goofy and flashy (that Smith CGI courtyard fight in particular hasn’t aged well) and the Zion scenes are boring. Thankfully the second half flows better and contains some spectacular action, with the freeway chase scene still incredible. The colorful side characters, like the ghostly twins, help bring life to the film too. The Matrix Reloaded doesn’t have the fresh lighting in a bottle feeling of The Matrix, but it is an escapist blockbuster that still offers plenty of thrills. Grade: B

1. The Matrix  (1999)

Four films into the series, it’s easy to see now that The Matrix should have remained a standalone work. Sure, the sequels expand the world of Zion that the first film barely touches, but the original is superior in every other way. This is a superb and fresh science fiction film that took the world by storm upon release with its wild ideas about artificial intelligence and game-changing camerawork, editing, and special effects revolving around the action; “bullet time” was everywhere in the early 2000s. The story is full of thrills and twists at every turn, the characters and performances are memorable (Morpheus is cool as ice), and the pacing is brisk. Despite bringing a lot to the table in terms of innovation and world building, The Matrix remains surprisingly tight and focused throughout. It’s a masterpiece of science fiction and action filmmaking, often imitated but rarely matched. Grade: A+

Written by
Daniel Rester is a writer for the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing short films for years. Rester also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here," which is currently in post-production and will be Rester's feature directorial debut.

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